CRAWFORD | Bellarmine must slow down high-scoring Fairmont state for trip to D-2 title game
Eric Crawford previews No. 2-ranked Bellarmine's NCAA Division II Final Four matchup against No. 3-ranked Fairmont State.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The NCAA Division II Final Four is a heavyweight event. Tonight, No. 2-ranked Bellarmine will meet No. 3 Fairmont State (W.Va.) in one semifinal. Top ranked Northwestern Missouri State will face No. 15 Lincoln Memorial in the other.
The Knights, who won their 19th straight game with a 92-72 dismantling of Colorado School of Mines in Wednesday’s quarterfinals, are looking for their second trip to the NCAA championship game under coach Scott Davenport. They are the only program in Sioux Falls, S.D., that has won a Division II title.
But the team in their way is formidable. Fairmont State is third in NCAA Division II in scoring at 96 points per game. The Falcons average better than 11 three-pointers per game. Their high-pressure, full-court attack yields 10.2 steals per game, third best in Division II.
“They’re a great basketball team,” Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport told Doug Ormay and Mark Bugg on the WGTK postgame coaches interview by LouisvilleCatholicSports.net after Wednesday’s win. “We’ve followed them all year. The scout was already done before we came here. And, you know, again, it’s going to be two great basketball teams. But you’re in the Final Four. There’s going to be great teams. . . . They’ve got the best of the best here, no doubt about it.”
Among the keys for Bellarmine will be breaking Fairmont State’s defensive pressure and limiting turnovers. The Knights will have to deal with swingman Matt Bingaya, who transferred after starting 34 games at Southern Miss. And the Falcons have other weapons. Point guard Jason Jolly made a career-high seven threes on his way to 28 points in the quarterfinal win over Rollins.
The Falcons fired up 39 three-pointers in that game. Davenport said Bellarmine will have to be ready for that kind of attack.
Fairmont State is athletic and likes to play up and down. They’re very skilled individually, particularly on offense.
“We’re facing a tremendous test,” Davenport said. “It’s two of the top teams in the country playing tomorrow, without a doubt. Styles are totally different, in terms of we’ll have to be able to really rebound the ball. Tomorrow won’t be about plays, it’ll be about execution. But we’ve got to be able to handle pressure, rebound the basketball, do a great job of passing, but it’ll come down to a great team defensive game. A very talented team.”
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